STONE AGE is going audio

Stone Age Audio BookI am excited to announce that Tantor Media, one of the top audio book publishers, has agreed to publish STONE AGE in audio book format. They were very enthusiastic to bring STONE AGE to an audio book audience, which is growing by leaps and bounds. There are also many readers, such as the blind, who only get to enjoy fictional books by audio.

Tantor releases about 80 books a month, but has wanted to offer more in the very popular sci-fi genre and its many sub-genres, like post-apocalyptic & dystopian fiction (by two favorites). My hope is that many more will now be able to experience STONE AGE.

After my helping them choose the narrator, Tantor should publish in CD and digital audio download, on all audio book marketplaces and later in libraries, sometime around November.

More announcements to follow.

Brewpub Q&A

Brewpub-QandA

Since STONE AGE was published in April, I had received loads of questions, criticisms and comments from readers either directly by email or through Amazon and Goodread’s reviews. I have really wanted to answer many of these, but it’s hard to do this by individual email and I don’t believe its right to interject my opinions on the review boards. This prompted another thought: After reading a book, I often have questions I would like to ask the author directly, but I was never given the chance. So I offer you the opportunity to ask me, ML Banner anything you want to know about STONE AGE. I have listed some of the most common questions or comments I’ve received. But you can also post your own questions directly below and I will do my best to answer them.

Set-up: Most things in life are done better over a cold beer. So, let’s imagine that we are holding our Q&A at a local brewpub where you can order your beer of choice – or fruit of the vine, if that’s your preference. You take your seat and gaze at the stage, its single chair, and a placard announcing this Brewpub Q&A. The spot lights turn on and I sit and get ready to take your questions.  “Tonight, we’re going to discuss STONE AGE,” I tell you, the audience.

So relax, pop the top on your best brew, or uncork your premium wine (why not pull out the good stuff?), and ask me about STONE AGE.

Spoiler Alert: If you have not read STONE AGE, do not read this: I don’t want to spoil any chance you have at uncovering the “Ah-ha” moments in the book.

ML Banner: Thanks for coming out tonight. First, cheers to you for reading the book (we foist our glasses up and toast). Now, can I have my first question.

Q: Alright Banner, what’s with that dang ending? Really, don’t you think that was a little abrupt?

A: Wow, tough crowd. This is the most common question or criticism I have received in reviews and personal emails. So, let me clear this up, if I can. If you will recall, a character named Gord who only pops up in the book’s opening chapter (from “A time long ago”) and in the last chapter, just revealed the big surprise ending: he’s not from our past but from our future. In other words, this is what our future will look like (assuming we are pummeled by never-ending CMEs). I wanted to end the book here to have the reader ponder this. But, with Gord getting thonked in the head, it’s one more reminder, as I have done throughout the book, that no matter what we do to prepare for the “what-ifs”, there is no way to fully prepare for every possible challenge.

I know this left a lot of you with an unfinished conclusion, where you thought there should be more. I could have continued for another fifty or one hundred pages, but then that would be a different story, wouldn’t it?

Q: Fess up Banner, this was just a ploy to sell book #2?

A: Okay, yep you got me there, somewhat. I wanted to really draw you into the next book, just like a cliff-hanger from a serial TV show. It was an experiment that worked for some and not for others. I promise not to do this again, at least without warning you better.

Q: So, book#2 won’t leave us hanging?

A: No! In fact Book#2 is a complete novel which will have closure at the end. It treats STONE AGE (Book#1) as a prequel, not just a continuation in a series. You won’t have to read STONE AGE first, although it would certainly help you understand the characters better and how our world got to where it is. It won’t answer all the questions (left in STONE AGE), but you will know what happens to most of the characters. There also will be a continuation in the series/saga and a book#3 – I’m not revealing the name yet.

Q: So, what is the name of Book#2: Is it New Realities, Stone Age II or something else?

A: DESOLATION. Although it deals with the “new realities” of this changed world, it is more about the desolation and difficulties all will face after the beginning of the new Stone Age chronicled in STONE AGE.

Q: How come you didn’t warn us better it was a series?

A: Well, you got me there. I did so later, but early on it didn’t occur to me as I thought it was obvious. I can only ask for forgiveness and promise not to do this again.

Q: So if you had to summarize, what is STONE AGE really about?

A: I wanted to stress two things:

First, we need to prepare for the worst when it comes to solar storms. We were almost “brought back to the Stone Age” in July 2012, when two CMEs missed us by only seven days. If they were emitted only seven days later, you would not be reading this: you would be scrounging for food! We need to prepare ourselves individually and to prepare our electrical grid. I’m suggesting that we spend some of our nation’s indebtedness on shielding most, if not all, of the over 4000 transformers that make up our grid and we need to do it now!

Second, as I said earlier, the book highlights that it is impossible to completely prepare for every calamity. After all, how could anyone know what was going to happen? Max was a perfect example of this: he prepared his entire life to protect the family he had sworn to protect, and yet he still wasn’t able to do so because of a Mexican drug cartel. That said, we should still prepare with what we have, so that if the SHTF, we aren’t completely broadsided.

Q: Why didn’t Max plan better? Come on Rocky Point is not the best location for a SHTF place.

A: You’ll have to read DESOLATION to find out why he did what he did – It’s answered there. However, this was also to point out that one of the best preppers in the story still didn’t plan for everything, even though he tried.

Q: Why the name Stone Age and not Iron Age or Middle Age or Pre-Industrial? We wouldn’t relying on stone tools, so that’s a little exaggerated isn’t it?

A: It’s more of a saying, which one of my main fictional characters said best, “If we have another Carrington Event, we’ll go back to the Stone Age.” But it is not to be taken literally. For instance, Albert Einstein says, “I don’t know how WW III will be fought, but WW IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” Was Albert being literal? Of course not, but that’s also why I had Max admonishing him in a follow up quote, “Come on Albert, WW IV will be fought and won by the men who find the leftover guns.”

Q: Is the CME Research Institute a real place?

A: Only if Dr. Carrington Reid is a real person. However, it must be true because they have a real website, right?

Q: Is this future (where we are unprotected and assaulted daily by CME’s) even possible?

A: Not really. The chances of the magnetosphere just stopping is highly unlikely… or is it? You’ll have to read DESOLATION to find out.

Q: Are you done with Stone Age Series after Book #3?

A: Probably, but I’m toying with releasing Russell Thompson’s Journal – I have it you know. I may also release a Stone Age Short Stories – This would reveal some other characters and what happened to them right before God turned off the lights.

Q: What about the profanity?

A: I don’t swear in real life, just ask my wife. I’ll use euphemisms like, “frack” or “fire-truck” instead. So it was hard for me to put swear words on paper, especially since many people hate this and it means that there are a lot of young adult readers that won’t read this because of the profanity. I personally believe using the F-word multiple times in a sentence is a sign of either stupidity or irrational thinking. I think I used the F-word only twice, and a couple of colorful Mexican slang swear words. When I did, it was my attempt at realism. For instance, when Bill used the F-word, it was only once and it was because he was angry at Max for pushing him to take the life of another person.

That said, I don’t think anyone under the age of 18 should read STONE AGE. It is way too dark and scary for anyone under 18 to read. My godchild (niece) wants to read it because her mother read it (after all, her Uncle wrote it). I told her no! I just wish that Amazon included a rating system on its books. I would rate it an R, even though I think the Academy would rate it a PG-13.

Q: Hey, I just realized your wife’s name is Lisa and you have a place in Rocky Point: Bill is married to a Lisa and they have a place in RP… Are you Bill?

A: Yes and no. I’m also part Max. In a way I’m all these characters since I relate to each one, even though each is different.

Q: A lot of the narrative focus is on some strong women: Darla, Sally, Lisa, & Melanie – Does that mean you should instead be writing for a ladies’ magazine?

A: That was my favorite criticism. I think the reviewer just wanted me to blow up more stuff in the story. He and others who agree will get some of their wishes fulfilled in DESOLATION.

Do you have any other questions? Please ask away.

I need to get another beer. I’ll be right back…

Worry about a mega-solar storm not just fiction

 

Power-grid-down-solar-stormSince releasing STONE AGE in April, I’ve received many questions from readers and media about the viability of a mega-solar storm taking out our world’s technology, starting with our American power grid.  We’ll I hate to say, “I told you so!” But, in a way, that’s what I am now saying.

BusinessWeek, yesterday ‘reported’ (http://buswk.co/1qdJaJF) about the many businesses already planning around current solar storms and the potential for future giant ones. For instance, did you know that Delta Airlines has to reroute dozens of flights per year because of the destruction solar storms play on air-to-ground communications?

They even waxed a little apocalyptic when they quoted a National Academy of Sciences’ report from 2008 which said,

a severe [solar] storm could disable hundreds of the U.S. grid’s high-voltage transformers, leaving more than 130 million people in the dark for months.

You might want to re-read this again, and really consider what that means. We’re talking most of America is without power for “MONTHS!” This is not the stuff of fiction, this is real science.

It’s true there are some dissenters as to the scale of destruction, but no one doubts we would have big-time problems if another Carrington Event occurred in our lifetimes.

And what are we doing to protect ourselves? Very little. A jolt from a large CME (coronal mass ejection) from the sun will fry most of our nation’s giant transformers, bringing down our grid for a long time. Keep in mind each of these giant transformers cost $millions and almost two years to replace – that’s when the power is working! Oh, and consider most transformers are manufactured overseas, not here. Yet, if each transformer were shielded, it could withstand all the sun cares to dish out. Some state governments are making investments in protecting their grid, but there are very few and they are spending way to little to make a big difference.

The solution is simple. Rather than spending $billions to find questionable solutions to debatable a man-made global warming issue, we need to redirect these funds to protecting our grid. To properly shield from a mega-solar storm the 4000 or so transformers that represent the most important components of our power grid will cost about $200 billion (by some estimates). However, if we continue to do nothing and another Event occurs in our lifetimes, we could easily be facing $trillions in losses to our economy, not to mention the mass death that most certainly would occur.

Sorry to be so bleak folks, but we are getting warnings daily and yet we are doing nothing about it. I’m reminded of the sermon joke I’ve heard many times given at the pulpit at my church and I’m sure many others:

A hurricane was coming and the town’s sheriff knew about a hold-out who had not headed previous warning to leave to higher ground. So, the sheriff told this man – we’ll call him Thomas - “Hey Thomas, you need to leave because this whole area is going to flood.”

Thomas said, “Thanks sheriff, but I know that God will protect me, I’m staying!” And with that the sheriff drove off.

Later, the hurricane roared in and Thomas’ house was flooding and so a boat with an aid-worker pulled up to Thomas’s 2nd floor window and yelled on a loudspeaker, “You need to come with us because you will surely drown if you stay.”

Thomas yelled back out the window, “Thanks, but I know God will protect me, I’m staying!”

A short time later, the flood waters were up to the roof’s edge, and a Coast Guard helicopter spotted Thomas on the roof and sent a rope down and on the loud speaker announced, “Mister, you need to come with us or you will surely drown.”

Thomas, signaled back to him, “I’m fine! God will protect me.  Go.”

Thomas drowned!

In heaven, Thomas asked God, “I don’t understand Lord, I am a faithful servant, why did you let me die?”

God said, “Thomas, I sent you the Sheriff in a car, then I sent you an aid-worker in a boat, and then I sent you the Coast Guard in a helicopter. How much more warning did you need?”

Indeed, how much more warning do we need?

STONE AGE Completely Reedited PLUS a Bonus!

[This post was updated 7/10/2014]

StoneAgeNewFinalAs the old motto goes, you live and learn. Well, I have sure learned a lot in these past couple months since publishing my first novel, STONE AGE.For many reasons, STONE AGE has been completely reedited, the cover has been updated, and most significantly, I have added the first three chapters of, STONE AGE II, the second book in the series. Are you ready for the best news?  You can download this for FREE (if you originally purchased STONE AGE from Amazon)!

Why do this?
In spite of what some have said, STONE AGE was in fact reviewed and edited by a “professional” editor. However, this editor dealt only with minor punctuation and spelling issues. Unfortunately, there were also many other substantive errors which were missed by both of us. Additionally, I forgot to fact check some of the Spanish used in the book.  All of this was my mistake – I blame no one but myself. After hearing from many readers through reviews and emails, I decided to hire a very respected new editor, Karen Conlin to do a complete reedit of the entire book. By the way, if you’re an author, I strongly recommend you consider using her.

Are you gnashing your teeth or tearing at your clothes yet? Don’t worry, there are no changes to the story and therefore no new surprises – I wouldn’t do that to all of you who have already invested your time and money into this book. However, after approximately three thousand changes, STONE AGE is now a much stronger story than it was before.

Didn’t you say new material too?
For those of you anxiously waiting to find out what happens next, here is your chance. In addition to strengthening the existing story, I have introduced the first three chapters (about 4000 words) of STONE AGE II, Book #2 in the Stone Age Saga. You don’t have to wait until the fall to get your next STONE AGE fix. Get it now! Oh, and be warned, there is a new revelation in the new material – see if you can catch it.

How do I get this for free?
If you purchased STONE AGE for Kindle, you can download the newly updated STONE AGE, including the three new chapters for FREE from Amazon. To do this, follow these simple steps:

  1. Visit the Manage Your Content and Devices page on Amazon.com;
  2. Find Stone Age on your list of books and then click on the little “…” button (it’s square) under the Actions column;
  3. From the list of choices offered, select “Update Available”

Below is how this might look:

Update-Available

WARNING: When you update your book, you will loose any notes or highlights you’ve made if you don’t also make sure that Automatic Book Update is turned “ON” in your Settings. You can find this by clicking on the Settings tab (again in the Manage your Content and Devices area) and you’ll find Automatic Book Update lower on the page.

Please Note: Setting your Automatic Book Update to “ON” does NOT update your book. Amazon never updates your book unless you manually tell them to update this. I was incorrect when I posted this last month.

Will you receive official notice from Amazon too?
Although I notified all of you via my website of this change here first.  However, I also wanted every one of the thousands of readers of STONE AGE to get an updated version of the book too. This is why I notified Amazon telling them of the major changes made.  If Amazon agrees, they will actually email every buyer of a Kindle version of STONE AGE. You don’t have to wait for the official notice though: Go get your updated copy today!

Let others know!
Please be sure to write your comments below if you had any problems (or success) getting your updated copy.  If you did have problems getting the update, I know between others who read this and me, we should be able to find a solution. Finally, my sincere thanks to everyone for your positive comments and even your criticisms – we all have the same goal, to make STONE AGE better.  And thank you once again, all of you for making STONE AGE such as success!

No 1 Amazon Best Seller

No1-Best-Seller

At this moment, STONE AGE is the #1 Amazon Best Seller for Post Apocalyptic No1 Best SellerFiction and also #1 for Dystopian Fiction.  STONE AGE is also among the top 300 of all eBooks offered by Amazon (At this moment, it’s #264).

What a ride from obscurity only five weeks ago and then rising to the highest level in both its listed genres.

Of course, the Kindle Countdown continues through 5/12.  You can still obtain a Kindle copy of STONE AGE for only $0.99 until then, and $1.99 after this through 5/15.

Thanks again to all of you who have purchased and read STONE AGE!